Nicole and Ben Veum had been waiting and waiting for their baby to arrive. Nicole’s due date came and went. Her doctor called her into the hospital — Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital — to induce labor. That was Friday.

“So we were very excited at that point,” she said. “And then day after day after day, with not a whole lot of progress.”

They tried three different ways of inducing labor. Then, on the third day, with the third attempt, it started working.

“And then finally I am in a great rhythm,” she said. “We’re all excited. They’re talking about breaking my water.”

Her contractions were coming strong, every four to five minutes.

“Things are rolling,” Ben said. “We’re getting good checks from the nurses. We started to get in the mood to play some music — a little bit of opera.”

They just turned on Pavarotti when the hospital power went out. The generators came on. And the smoke outside the building started to creep inside.

“There was a ton of smoke in the hospital,” Nicole said. “You could see it and smell it.”

Nicole and Ben Veum and baby Adrian.
Nicole and Ben Veum and baby Adrian. (April Dembosky/KQED)

The nurses said the buildings around the hospital were on fire and they had to evacuate everyone. Eighty patients from Sutter and another 130 patients from Kaiser were transferred to other hospitals in the area on Monday, including Santa Rosa Memorial and Kaiser San Rafael.

Nicole Veum had just received an epidural when the evacuation orders came through.

“I couldn’t walk or move, which was just not cool,” she said. “I didn’t like that part. I felt really vulnerable.”

The staff gave Nicole medication to stop her contractions.

“We were like ‘Noooo.’ It was the worst news,” she said. “To have tried for three days and then OK, here’s the shot that’s going to end all of that.”

Then, Nicole had to wait again. For an ambulance.

It was hours before dawn, and Nicole lay on a gurney by the docking bay, feeling paralyzed, in a line of would-be evacuees. There were so many patients that needed to be transported, and by the time her turn came, she had to share the ride with another woman in labor and a third with a newborn in her arms. That left no room for her husband.

“The charge nurse explained that ‘This is a disaster. We’re following disaster protocol and no spouses or birth teams or anything are going along on the ambulance,’” Ben said. “And there was a part of me briefly that was like – but I’m a dad. I’m going to be a dad. This is us.”

Ben waited for the bus, and was soon reunited with Nicole at Santa Rosa Memorial. But by that point, her labor was again at a stand still.

They gave it another 12 hours, then agreed to a C-section. Monday evening, Nicole gave birth to a healthy baby boy, named Adrian Veum. Their friends had some suggestions for a middle name.

“They wanted us to call him Adrian Fuego Veum, or Blaze Veum,” she said.

But Nicole is a big Los Angeles baseball fan, and she and Ben decided to stick with their original name plan: Adrian Dodger Veum.

Giving Birth Is Hard Enough. Now Try It in the Middle of a Wildfire. 15 October,2017April Dembosky

Author

April Dembosky

April Dembosky is the health reporter for The California Report and KQED News. She covers health policy and public health, and has reported extensively on the economics of health care, the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in California, mental health and end-of-life issues.

Her work is regularly rebroadcast on NPR and has been recognized with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists (for sports reporting), and the Association of Health Care Journalists (for a story about pediatric hospice). Her hour-long radio documentary about home funerals won the Best New Artist award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival in 2009.

April occasionally moonlights on the arts beat, covering music and dance. Her story about the first symphony orchestra at Burning Man won the award for Best Use of Sound from the Public Radio News Directors Inc.

Before joining KQED in 2013, April covered technology and Silicon Valley for The Financial Times, and freelanced for Marketplace and The New York Times. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Smith College.

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